Art by JamieFayX
- Name: Noriko Ashida
- Code Names: Surge
- First Appearance: New Mutants #8 (February ’04)
- Powers: Super speed and Electricity projection
- Teams Affiliation: X-Men, New Mutants
In the classic short japanese cartoon, the Homestar Runner character Strong Bad answers a reader’s question about what he would be like as a Japanese Cartoon. The answer has always stuck with me, a head like a little bean, real, real big eyes, robot boots, and for some reason, blue hair. You gotta have blue hair. Looking back, it’s interesting how all those descriptions were superficial and had nothing to do with the characterization. In fact, I remember being 13 and trying to write a fantasy story (something I am so glad was long since deleted) and my focus was on all of the wrong elements like weapons, exotic names, and hair color. There is something to be said about this style over substance approach, but when you remember more about what a character looks like than their personality, there is a problem. That’s what’s difficult about someone like Surge, it isn’t her personality I remember, it isn’t her character arc, it’s just the blue hair.
Noriko Ashida was slowly enjoying her life. Enjoyed her family life in Tokyo and loved spending time with her little brother. At thirteen her X-Gene activated and Nori began absorbing static electricity from everything around her. Her father was ashamed of his freak of a daughter and Noriko was forced out of her home. Everything was happening so fast. Unless she constantly discharged her powers her mind and body wouldn’t stop moving. She tried to start a new life in America but struggled to connect with anyone. Everything she said came out as a blur, she couldn’t get in a shower without shocking herself, this gift left her isolated from the world around her. She found a pill that would allow her to control her abilities, to numb her from the reality she faced and she soon became dependent on it. Noriko went from a loving family in Tokyo to a pill popping, vagrant in Salem Center in the blink of an eye.
She tried to get help at the Xavier Institute but resident 80’s teen movie villain Hellion turned her away without a second thought. Nori tried to get some help from a local barista but accidentally discharged her electricity and hospitalized the girl. Scared, Nori stole some money from the shop and speed straight to her dealer. She needed her control back. A group of students from the Xavier Institute led by Elixir found her before she could take the pills and tried to control her out of control powers. Nori awoke in the X-Mansion where she found herself under examination by Beast. He developed gauntlets to help control her abilities, but Nori would rather be numb than wear them.
Art by Carlo Barbari and Juan Vlasco
She was convinced to enroll at the Institute but took some time to become comfortable with the student body. When the students were split into training squads, Nori joined the New Mutants team and took the codename Surge. On that squad, she honed her abilities and grew close with her teammate Prodigy. The two began dating and David helped her work through her abandonment, but those fears came back to the surface when David announced he was leaving the school. You see, his code name was an understatement because David’s mind never stopped learning from everyone around him. Though Emma Frost and Dani Moonstar were able to convince him to stay, Surge worried that her new boyfriend was going to leave her like everyone else had. This anger needed an outlet and M-Day would provide that in the worst way.
Art by Randy Green and Rick Ketcham,
Surge was one of the 27 students to retain her powers after the Decimation and participated in Emma Frost’s battle royal to determine who would become X-Men. Surge performed well and was chosen for the team but she was surprised when Emma chose her as the leader over Hellion. She quickly proved her leadership potential when the Purifiers attacked the school and blew up a bus containing depowered students. Nori was the first person to rush to her classmate’s rescue and the guilt of watching her friends die drove her to ensure this wouldn’t happen again.
Art by Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco, and Brian Reber
When Nimrod captured Forge, the maker who had built new gauntlets for her, Surge led the young X-Men to rescue him. The students snuck out, stole a Blackbird, and flew it to Eagle Plaza to challenge the Sentinel. With an assist from Rockslide and Mercury, Surge was able to release all her pent up anger and energy into Nimrod, forcing him to retreat into the past. Cyclops was upset that she led the students against his wishes but he was pleased to see just how well Surge had done leading the team.
Art by Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco, and Brian Reber
Though all this danger Noriko became increasingly worried about her relationship with David. He had lost his powers in M-Day and Surge wasn’t willing to put him in danger. She tried to get him to leave the school, pushing him away and trying to make him hate her. David still cared for her but he wasn’t willing to stay with someone who didn’t want him. He wouldn’t leave the school but he left Noriko. Angry at the repercussions of her actions, and thirsty for revenge for her lost friends, Surge led an unauthorized assault on the Purifiers during the Messiah CompleX that led to Hellion getting severely injured. Soon, not just David, but everyone would leave Noriko as the mansion was destroyed and the X-Men disbanded.
Art by Humberto Ramos, Carlos Cuvas, and Edgar Delgado
Without the X-Men, Surge felt lost. She rushed to find Dani Moonstar and opened up to her about all her frustrations. Nori didn’t feel like she could reconcile her mistakes as a leader but Dani was able to show her otherwise. Empowered by the talk Surge rejoined the X-Men when they relocated to San Francisco. Since then she has continued to exist in group shots, waiting for the spotlight to fall on her once more.
Art by David Lafuente and Christina Strain
Surge’s big arc starts with M-Day and no book was more affected. It is telling that she is one of only two characters from the New Mutants squad to stay as a lead after the creative team transitioned and oh what a transition it is. Starting with New X-Men #20, the book evolves from a teenybopper school book into an examination on what it means to grow up in a world that fears and hates you just for being born. Craig Kyle and Chris Yost breathed new life into a book that had been spinning its wheels and added a ton of depth to a colorful class of mutants. This run is on Marvel Unlimited and in a bunch of out of print trades.
Art by Mark Brooks
This last week I went through pretty much ever appearance of Surge and I still fall to the same point I was at before the refresher. The most interesting thing about her is her look. She isn’t as good of an angry, rebellious leader as Dani, and she doesn’t even have the striking design of a Glob Herman. She isn’t my least favorite of the New X-Men, but she isn’t someone I can bring myself to care about. There are a lot of really good directions that character could go, honestly, she probably has more potential than most people on this list, but that hasn’t been realized. She isn’t as bad as the characters I actively dislike, like Northstar, but she isn’t better than Omega Sentinel. Even a character like Cypher has enough good will built up with me that I think Surge has to fall in as the new 41 in the Xavier Files.
Surge was requested by Theodore from Patreon. Thanks for the request. If you want to cut to the front of the line, like Theodore has, we have a Patreon if you want to support it and get a line cutting reward for just a $1 pledge. We just hit our first goal and just need $7 for me to start reviewing every X-Book each week. Oh and we also have exclusive physical items so check those out!
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— Xavier Files (@XavierFiles) December 8, 2016